B2B World Fest B2B Marketing Mastercard

Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar talks people, purpose, passion & profits at B2B World Fest

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By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

December 13, 2022 | 7 min read

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There’s no such thing as a B2B or B2C brand. Businesses must appeal to people, and profits will follow, said Mastercard CMCO Raja Rajamannar at B2B World Fest 2022.

Mastercard CMCO Raja Rajamannar at B2B World Fest 2022.

Mastercard CMCO Raja Rajamannar at B2B World Fest 2022.

Renowned marketer and author Raja Rajamannar has a crystal-clear point-of-view: the lines between a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) brand are increasingly blurred. In both cases, he believes, the decision maker is human and should be treated as such.

“As an individual, decision makers are the same human being. The dynamics of their decision making varies in each context, but the emotions, aspirations, insecurities, and feelings are exactly the same – irrespective of whether they are working in a company/business setting or an individual/family setting.”

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Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, was sharing his perspective in a fireside chat with Craig Duxbury, chief client officer at global B2B agency Stein IAS, during B2B World Fest 2022.

In his remarks, Rajamannar revealed that Mastercard is predominantly a B2B business. Yet, Mastercard is perceived as a B2C brand – and there’s good reason for this. Rajamannar said: “We ditched that whole dichotomy between B2B and B2C from a brand positioning and brand communication point of view. As we always say, you have to be human and you have to appeal to people.”

Purpose and passion

The brand’s holistic B2B/B2C approach is reflected in how it communicates to customers, which has seen a shift in focus from brand advertising into experiences. One example shared was Mastercard’s support of the LGBTQ+ community, through the highly awarded True Name program which enables transgender and nonbinary cardholders to use their true name on their card without requiring a legal name change.

Rajamannar and Duxbury discussed the importance of creating a feeling of inclusion for everyone, which can result in a true connection to a brand. He stated, “When you’re sincerely pursuing a social cause or trying to eliminate a pain point, not for political correctness or for the soundbites your CEO uses at some annual conference, the results are fantastic. When you pursue the purpose and the passion, profits will follow.”

Throughout the discussion, the conversation also touched on how B2B organizations who lack the equity, scale or size of a brand like Mastercard, should look to leverage the power of partner brands. “A lot of good ideas die or don’t take off just because they’re coming from brands which are not well known or don’t have enough clout and scale. I would always suggest leveraging the power of a bigger brand,” said Rajamannar.

Brand advantage versus demand treadmill

Duxbury moved the conversation on to the trend of brand versus demand, noting the “challenges of the interconnection and gaps between them.”

When it comes to balancing brand and demand in the marketing mix, Rajamannar is certain of one thing, “Whatever we’re claiming in our products, the credibility is coming from the brand itself.”

“If all you’re doing is focusing on performance marketing, you’re running on a treadmill. The speed of the treadmill keeps increasing but you haven’t moved forward, and you’ve tired yourself out,” he stated. “What gets you off that treadmill and gives you good progress and competitive advantage is the brand. When you’re building the brand, you’re building curiosity and awareness. It’s for that reason that two-thirds of Mastercard’s marketing spend goes on brand building, not on products and performance.”

“B2B is several generations behind when it comes to tapping into emotions and that’s really what we’re discussing here with creativity,” added Duxbury. “It gives all of us as B2B marketers hope that we can drive that creativity.”

The psychology of decision makers (aka, people)

Offering his closing advice for B2B marketers on how to drive creativity, Rajamannar echoed the importance of tapping into the human, emotional connection with decision makers.

“When you talk of B2B marketing, people become very formal and information/data-rich and they talk in a language which a human being does not speak to another human being,” he said. “The whole thing is very uninspiring as a human being. Your differentiation will come from your creativity and understanding the psychology of people.”

“Marketers must understand the personal problem of the individual,” he continued: “Make their job easier. Understand their aspirations, apprehensions, insecurities and try to tap into them effectively. That is consumer marketing in a B2B context and that is way beyond just product marketing.

“Nobody buys a product for the sake of the product – that’s the biggest myth. Producing the best product, pricing, packaging and distribution will not make you the market leader. It’s psychology that creates market leaders. And when psychology is powered by data, analytics and the latest technologies, you can take it to a different level altogether.”

Tune in to view the full session from B2B World Fest on-demand here.

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B2B World Fest B2B Marketing Mastercard

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The B2B Originals, Stein IAS is the first and leading brand-to-demand agency for B2B enterprises worldwide. We originate growth for clients globally by fusing data,...

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